Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Better Late than Never

This renewed polio elimination drive in Nigeria hasn't come a moment too soon. It's a shame that Islamist politicking should have held up the eradication of a disease which has given rise to so much needless suffering.

Some 13 million children in northern Nigeria are being vaccinated against polio in a bid to wipe out the disease.
About 250,000 technicians are making house calls to reach all children under five in eight states, which have become the world's polio epicentre.
Last year, an immunisation campaign was halted in northern Nigeria after Islamic clerics said it was unsafe.
Nigeria now accounts for about 80% of new cases and 12 previously polio-free African nations have been reinfected.

Fertility fears

Vaccinations were restarted in July after the clerics were satisfied with vaccines shipped in from Indonesia.
But July's campaign only reached some 60% of the region's children.
The clerics, based in northern Nigeria's biggest city Kano, had said that the original vaccine was part of a US plot to make Muslim women infertile.


Once the new programme is completed, Nigeria will prepare for a synchronised vaccination campaign - which will run in 22 countries - at the beginning of October as part of final efforts to rescue the WHO goal of wiping out polio worldwide by 2005.
I don't have time for those who insist that Islam is by definition an "evil" religion, but incidents like the one above give the lie to the claim that only a "few" extremists are holding a gentle, tolerant and open-minded religion hostage; thousands of children throughout Africa have been crippled for life because of the actions of Islamist politicians who enjoyed broad popular support from their co-religionists. All religion is nonsense, but some strains of nonsense are more dangerous than others, and Islam currently has more than its fair share of such madness.